The EcoWaste Coalition made the disclosure as the group steps up its effort to raise consumer awareness on chemicals of concern to watch out in some school supplies as the resumption of classes on June 4 nears.
The group last week uncovered excessive levels of lead, a potent brain poison, in 9 out of 25 school supplies, including 3 backpacks, 2 pencil cases, a plastic envelope, a rainwear, a pair of girl shoes and a water canteen.
“We decided to screen additional raincoats to check if these products, which are supposed to protect kids from getting wet and sick during the rainy season, are safe for their health,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Lucero revealed that out of the 14 raincoats the group bought from retailers and wholesalers in Divisoria on May 14, 11 were found to contain lead levels up to 9,475 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
While three samples had no detectable levels of lead, two of them had high amounts of cadmium, a probable human carcinogen that scientists say are worse than lead in many ways.
A portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer was used to screen the samples for heavy metals on May 15.
“We are concerned about lead and cadmium in raincoats and other school supplies as these toxic substances are unavoidably released as toxic dust as the products deteriorate, and could be transferred to a child’s hands and ingested through repeated handling and use,” she said.
Some of the major deleterious effects of exposure to lead and cadmium includere productive disorders, birth defects, behavioural problems, learning disabilities, permanent IQ loss and diminished school performance.
The raincoats, sold from P55 to P180 per piece, were bought from shops located along Juan Luna St. in Divisoria, Manila and were mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and decorated with Disney, Justice League and other popular cartoon characters.
The following samples registered with the highest levels of lead:
A. 9,475 ppm of lead in a “Disney Cuties” PVC raincoat bought for P140 at Summit Superstore, Divisoria.
B. 4,368 ppm of lead in a “Disney Mickey Mouse” raincoat bought for P180 at Shirts and Print Trading Corp., Divisoria.
C. 3,595 ppm of lead in a “Winnie the Pooh” PVC raincoat bought for P170 at New China Bazaar, Divisoria.
D. 1,482 ppm of lead in a “Mickey Mouse” raincoat bought for P120 at Will Top Marketing, Divisoria.
E. 1,440 ppm of lead in a “Pretty as Princess” PVC raincoat bought for P170 at New China Bazaar, Divisoria.
F. 1,136 ppm of lead in a “Disney Tigger” PVC raincoat bought for P180 at Shirts and Print Trading Corp., Divisoria.
To avoid potential childhood exposure to lead and other harmful chemicals from raincoats, the EcoWaste Coalition advises parents to look for non-PVC rainwear and avoid those with painted designs unless labeled with a verifiable”lead-free” or “non-toxic” guarantee.
Aside from the health risks associated with the production and consumption of PVC-based school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition is also concerned with the extreme difficulty of recycling or disposing them because of their toxic additives.
PVC should be treated as “special waste” containing hazardous chemicals,should not be mixed with regular household discards and should not be burned to prevent the formation of dioxins, a class of highly toxic byproducts of combustion.